Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Backsliders & Yoga Failures

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:30 : Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground and slipping from the ground. These are the obstacles in the mind field


Defining the Sutra

Slipping from the ground gained concludes the discussion on verse 1:30. For more information on previous sutras, go here. Slipping from the ground gained is losing parts of the practice that you worked to cultivate.


Modern Day Application

As humans having a human experience, contrast is necessary. It is through the experience of sadness that we can know joy.  How do you describe blue to someone who was born blind?  How do you describe sweet to someone who cannot taste sour? The darkness of night helps us to fully experience the brightness of day. All the so called good experiences in life are only good because we can perceive their opposites. Try to describe anything to anyone without contrasting or comparing it with something else. Comparing and contrasting is not bad. It is a tool for experiencing the world. We were born from contrast. If you believe in physics, we were birthed from explosions that changed us from one form to another. If you believe in God, there is a huge contrast between a perfect all knowing being and a flawed one with limited knowledge.


VISTA’s look at the Helix Nebula


Failure is another from of contrast. If we stay present during periods of failure, we gain a deeper knowledge of ourselves. We learn how to stay deeply connected even while everything around us shifts and changes. Yoga is connecting to the stillness that is there amidst the contrast. Even though the word “failure” has a negative connotation, through yoga, we start to see it as just another experience that is just as valid as success.




Why It is Important

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 1 vs. 3 states, “then the seer abides in his own nature”. When we abide in our own nature, there is nothing to lose. Nothing to be gained and no where to go. Many students of yoga philosophy say that the obstacles are really referring more to the Samadhi state. Many see the samadhi state as  being separate from moksha or liberation. I don’t know. When I think about the simple act of abiding in my nature. My nature is there. There is no falling in and out of it. There is only falling in and out of what I think is me. There is only falling in and out of ego or the illusion of me. The rest is just experiences. Things that come and go.

This can be a hard concept for a student of yoga. Everyday we get on our mat and do asanas, pranayamas, meditations and even Samadhi techniques. Aren’t we trying to go somewhere? Ashtanga has many different poses and series. Aren’t we methodically working our way through them? Aren’t we trying to maintain firm ground in our practice?

Yoga gives us techniques to help us abide in our true nature. We don’t abide in our true nature because our thoughts are blocking us from the stillness within. The true firm ground we are seeking is the ground within. Our yoga practice is a systemic method that gets rid of all the junk that blocks us from realizing our true nature. The experience of moving through the poses and techniques is only  important as it applies to the practitioner.  Some practitioners can abide in there nature after half primary. Some people need every technique in the book. Until we abide in our nature, we trust the practice will help us get there. Even if it doesn’t, we had the experience and all experiences help us to know ourselves better.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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